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Woman recounts being caught in a drive-by shooting in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — As Crystal LaBrecque approached 18th Avenue S and 22nd Street on Sunday morning, she thought she heard fireworks.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a white Pontiac Sunfire sitting at a red light in the intersection, bordered by the busy Tangerine Plaza and Perkins Elementary School.

Suddenly, the Sunfire's driver hit the gas — heading straight for LaBrecque's gray Chrysler Sebring. About the same time, LaBrecque saw another white sedan. A man inside had his arm stretched out the window.

By the time LaBrecque realized he was gripping a gun, the first car T-boned hers.

She locked eyes with its driver, 19-year-old Julius Larmont Simons of St. Petersburg.

"I remember the look of horror on his face," LaBrecque said Monday. "Everything suddenly clicked. I realized the reason he had hit me was because somebody was shooting at him."

The 32-year-old mother of two, who just moved to Pinellas County from Tampa days ago, was caught in the middle.

Three bullets pierced her car. One whistled through the back window and would have hit her kids had they been with her.

"I just can't believe this happened," LaBrecque said. "It's Sunday, in the middle of the day. Lots of people were around. But they were so brazen. They didn't even care. They just did it in front of everybody."

On Monday, police arrested one man they think was involved in the shooting. Three others are still at large.

Rashawn Summers, 24, of St. Petersburg was charged with attempted murder and was held in Pinellas County Jail without bail.

Police, called to the scene about 11:10 a.m., found Simons, wounded, in a nearby parking lot. Police determined the Sunfire was heading south on 22nd Street when a group of men in a white Infiniti pulled up alongside and started shooting.

"It looks like we had two shooters at least," said police spokesman Mike Puetz. "One of the firearms used was an assault rifle."

Puetz said detectives believe Summers was the man with the assault rifle, and that he fired at least eight rounds.

Simons, struck at least four times, ran the light to escape, crashing into LaBrecque's convertible. The men in the Infiniti continued to fire after the crash, police said, but then fled.

Simons and his passenger, who has not been identified, also ran. Simons collapsed in the nearby parking lot. He was transported to a hospital and was in stable condition, police said.

Detectives released no details about a motive, but Puetz said it appears Simons and the shooters know each other. He also said the drive-by may be linked to a shooting earlier Sunday.

In that case, which occurred in the 300 block of 27th Street S, residents reported hearing gunshots and called 911. Officers found shell casings in the street, but nothing more.

"We didn't have a lot of cooperation," Puetz said. "We believe there was a connection to that and this shooting, but as to what exactly happened, it's unclear."

Initially, Puetz said, police knew only that one of the suspects was nicknamed "Rock." By Monday, they linked that to Summers, Puetz said. They also found out he was scheduled to attend a hearing on an unrelated charge at the courthouse Monday morning. He was arrested as he left.

LaBrecque is still reeling about the incident.

One of the bullets entered through the roof. Another shattered her front windshield and whizzed behind her head. The third pierced the back passenger window — the spot where her 11-year-old son usually sits.

By chance, she hadn't taken her son and 14-year-old daughter to breakfast with her, as usual Sunday morning.

"They were actually supposed to be in the car with me, but their father asked if he could take them fishing," she said. "All I can think about is . . . that my children should have been in the car with me, and that I could have died and they could have died."

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643.

Crystal LaBrecque looks out the shattered back window of her car, which was hit during a drive-by in St. Petersburg.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Crystal LaBrecque looks out the shattered back window of her car, which was hit during a drive-by in St. Petersburg.

To help

Anyone with information about either incident is asked to call police at (727) 893-7780, text a tip to (727) 420-8911 or leave an anonymous tip at (727) 892-5000.

Woman recounts being caught in a drive-by shooting in St. Petersburg 10/22/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 12:19am]

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